Space exploration within the commercial, business, and military sectors continues to increase, and the development of an autonomous navigation system capable of guidance navigation anywhere in the solar system free from the use of Earthbound orbiting satellites is required to ensure that these operations can be performed safely and accurately. Researchers at Rensselaer created a wide field-of-view (FoV) optical system for use as a StarNAV sensor with the potential to be mounted onto a spacecraft vehicle for use in measuring the velocity of the vessel during interstellar flights. The product exhibits an acceptable total velocity error (TVE) of less than 50 m/s as determined through numeric and analytic Monte Carlo simulations. As presented, system components (e.g., lenses) can be constructed using currently available optical-based fabrication processes. The wide FoV optical camera operates by evaluating only star pairs within images, which alleviates the requirement to use high-accuracy metrology systems to measure the relative alignment of optical instruments as employed in narrow FoV systems. An algorithm was developed for the rapid selection of star pairs in a starfield image, contributing to the devices' ability to realize an acceptable TVE for use in velocity estimation.

Submission Date
Reference Number
Natasha Sanford